Lensed in an eerily abandoned Paris in 1915, Louis Feuillade's stark chapterplay LES VAMPIRES is a grim and powerful work which is worlds apart from the later glitz and polish of the golden age serials produced by the American studios.
It should be noted that serials were nothing new at this point in time. Formative efforts such as THE PERILS OF PAULINE had already established the appeal of these generally inexpensive actioners, with their bizarre twists and inventive death traps.
The emphasis was generally on a resourceful protagonist pitted against an equally inventive and determined fiend -- frequently an unsuspected heir or lawyer out to obtain an undeserved inheritance.
LES VAMPIRES did this formula one better, making the menace a vast and largely unsuspected criminal empire which is devouring Paris from inside. With members taken from all classes, the dark society is able to plunder, blackmail and murder without dear of action from the authorities. This continues until their removal of a government investigator brings ambitious reporter Philippe Guerande (Edouard Mathe) into things.
Sent to the country to search for details on the official's murder, Philippe plans to combine business and pleasure by meeting Dr. Lox, an old family friend who has a chateau in the area.
Arriving at Lox's estate at the same time as an American heiress who means to purchase the property, the reporter is promptly framed for theft by the hooded agents of the gang, who are secreted in the ancient building.
Locating the dead investigator's head, Philippe manages to turn suspicion on Lox. Murdering the heiress and making his escape across the rooftops, the "doctor" is revealed as the Grand Vampire the (evident) leader of the criminal society.
Philippe falls into the Vampires' hands but is rescued by Oscar Cloud Mazamette (Marcel Levesque) -- a clerk and minor member of the gang whom he had helped earlier. Philippe and Mazamette combine to try to expose the society's operations and bring the gang to a deserved end.
A series of adventures follow, with the Grand Vampire (Fernand Herrmann) and exotic dancer/criminal Irma Vep (Musidora) providing much of the opposition. In a surprise development, it is revealed that the Grand Vampire is not the gang's ultimate leader. When it is convenient, his superior eliminates him. He, in turn, commits suicide when he is imprisoned by the police.
Satanas, the criminal mastermind behind the group's poisons and explosives steps in and assumes co-command with Irma Vep. This occurs too late, however, as Philippe is closing in on the gang's chief meeting place.
After a series of close calls, the reporter and the reformed Mazamette succeed in destroying the Vampires' leadership and bringing the rank and file members to justice.
Not enough emphasis can be placed on the serial's grim and stark look, which almost functions as a characters of its own. This is a Paris where the gang's activities have seemingly terrified the people to the degree that they refuse to venture out unless it is absolutely unavoidable.
Production took place during WW I, when the streets were largely abandoned, and this strange desolation combines with the scurrying of the few characters to present a powerful emphasis that goes beyond the actual turns and twists of the plotline. The result is compelling, entertaining, and more than a bit weird in spots. Tinted scenes add to the welcome air of unreality.
May 30, 2012 Subject:
Complete screening x 2
Not so fast yakofujimato!!! It was available to us in a complete showing, not once but TWICE at the Toronto (Canada) Nuit Blanche a couple of years ago, complete with a tag team of pianists.
I saw about half of the 1st screening in the evening, got a few hours sleep, then saw most of the second half in the 2nd screening in the early hours of the morning. But I missed about an hour in the middle, so I'm glad to find the complete series here.
It's a lot of fun .... especially the wild, debauched party scene!! .... but I think watching it in several sittings might be allowed.
May 30, 2011 Subject:
It's Nox. Dr. Lox is the villian of the lesser known "Les Bageles."
March 21, 2010 Subject:
Quote:". I wonder if it was actually screned in movie theaters for the whole 400 min, without stops. This is really quite a lot!"
Oh Boy! Are you for real?
No, they did not show the entire 400+ minutes in one screening! LOL!
It was a serial. It was shown one part weekly before the main movie, and then the next episode would debut a week later like a television show!
You should do some reading! lol!
October 13, 2009 Subject:
I liked it.
Quite intriguing and generally good! And it is thrilling to watch a film made as long ago as in 1915! It is nicely tinted, especially in sepia, I have no objections to it whatsoever.
This is the first part of the film, I am going look for more! Luckily it's all available here now. I wonder if it was actually screned in movie theaters for the whole 400 min, without stops. This is really quite a lot!
Reviewer:patrik b karl
December 14, 2008 Subject:
upload the rest of the movie
If this isnt all, then upload the rest if you have it
December 2, 2007 Subject:
Warning ! The file here contains only the first chapter (30 minutes) of the movie (wich is ~400 minutes long)